Friday, November 30, 2012

Seven Reflections

UntitledHere we are at the final post of the 7th NaBloPoMo. Like I said, I'm glad I did it. It would have felt wrong not to. I'm still not sure why, though.

I didn't do it for the traffic increase because that didn't happen. Well, there might have been a slight one but I think that's attributable to more posts per month. That may come across as a criticism of the event but it's not. I think it's a natural outgrowth of NaBloPoMo becoming so popular. It was easier to connect to other participants when there were fewer of us. The list seemed like you might actually be able to get all the way through it and the randomizer made trying fun! About three years in, though, you knew there was no way you could touch on every participating blog (or even a decent-sized chunk of them) and the thought of trying made you so tired I don't think anyone kept at it. I think that reading the NaBloPoMo blogs would have to be a project in and of itself.

I didn't do it to see if I can do it. I know I can do it. I've done it seven times now, more than that if you count the non-November month I did just to see what that felt like. (For the record it didn't work the same way for me. November is my month.)

It's not to get in the habit of writing frequently. Though I don't write every single day I do write regularly, at least five times a week. This sort of writing, at least. That last makes me think perhaps I'm at a point where I need to try NaNoWriMo. Getting a first draft of a longer something completed is something I don't know if I can do.

It's not for the prizes. I've never won a prize.

I like traditions. I think that's most of it. They make me feel safe and sane. This one connects me to people at a time of year when, we have to admit, it can be hard to feel that. I like the idea of having been in on something since the beginning and never having opted out. At some point that may become more of an albatross than a boon but that time has not yet come, thank goodness. Will I be back for an eighth year?  I don't know.

But I wouldn't bet against me.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pssst! Pass It On!

I'm doing a show, please come!

I've told you guys that I've got the dates for my new cabaret show. I've mentioned it on Twitter and Facebook. I feel like I've been gently but firmly talking everyone's ear off about it. If the number of times I've heard, "I didn't know you were doing a show!" is any indication, though, I have been too gentle and not nearly firm enough.


While I won't be screaming it in all caps all the time I am going to take the view that people aren't hearing me enough so I am going to talk about it a lot more. This is my first new show since Jay died. It's been a long time. I need people to come see this show, please. It's extremely important to me in mundane, practical ways and in deep, emotional ones. I'm not going to lie, if I get out there and see a sea of empty seats it's going to be a punch in the gut.

But I'll still keep singing.

This is a one hour cabaret show about my love affair with New York City. I'll be using standards, show tunes, and a tiny mix-in of classic pop to tell our romantic epic. It'll just be me and a really talented dude named Daryl Kojak on the piano so it's a simple, fun story to warm a few nights as the season gets colder.

There's a $15 cover charge and a 2 drink minimum and I promise to make it worth all that. You can make reservations at Don't Tell Mama's web site or by calling (212) 757-0788 after 4pm.

See you there!

*Huge shout out to my friend's kid, Gabe, and Our JRH for collaborating to make the image above. Thank you, ladies!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Photo Challenge: GRATEFUL

I am still eating leftovers so this prompt still feels appropriate. Not, of course, that we shouldn't be feeling the gratitude every day but with Thanksgiving in the rear view...well, you know.

So, please show the love for these great pics and please scroll down for the new prompt. I know everyone is really busy, especially during this season, so be assured that I appreciate you spending time on this.

2011 March 029  remembrance
Welcome back to Our kcinnova! She says that this shot speaks of remembrance. Times of remembering are, for me, always simultaneously times of gratitude, even when I really have to search for it.

Our Lisa never seems to take the gorgeous scenery in her neck of the woods for granted. I want to learn that from her.

I am grateful that Our Bethany threw in a photo that takes me back to warmer, sunnier days. I'm assembling this post while watching snow fall!

I am so behind in showing pictures of our trip to Italy. I am so glad we did it and I had such a wonderful time. I wish we could do it again!

Turkey Day Greeting 2
Our Erika offered two pictures of her boys with their cub scout pack greeting soldiers returning home for Thanksgiving. I'm sure you can imagine how hard it was to pick just one of them. I did it, but it hurt me.

Last but certainly not least, Our Janet announced earlier this week that she's reached the point in her cancer treatment where she can graduate to check ups every six months instead of more frequently. In honor of that she gave us this photo of some of the technology that prolonged her life. I, for one, am so grateful that she's still here.

This one just came to me. The next prompt is JINGLE (dirty!). Take that as you will.

Please enter by 9am Tuesday December 11th for posting on December 12th. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and JINGLE. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have questions.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

No Matter What The Day

UntitledToday is Giving Tuesday, apparently. It's part of the whole Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday scheme to get people to focus their consuming in different directions as the heavy retail and gifting season begins. Since Tuesdays are also for 10 things I'll toss out 10 places one might give this, or any, time of the year.

1. The Tunnel to Towers Foundation was set up by the family of a firefighter who died in the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11. Their organization is instrumental in getting aid to folks who have been harmed by the recent super storm. 

2. I give to The Lung Association every year in memory of Mrs. X. Lung cancer doesn't get as much press as a lot of other varietals but it'll kill you dead just the same. Yes, even if you never smoked.

3. Our JRH has done runs for the Dana Farber Institute. Again, wiping out cancer, not a bad thing.

4. Mrs. X was a big believer in Heifer International. She gave me a flock of chicks once. I gave Mr. X a hive of bees last year, I think. It's a group that works to improve communities and our natural world in one fell swoop. Pretty cool.

5. You can donate money or time to Habitat for Humanity. Auntie Blanche loved them. I don't know how much of that was about the importance of home and how much was about an admiration of Jimmy Carter and I don't care!

6. I talk about Donors Choose a lot. I come from a long line of educators. I'm going to keep talking about it until it's no longer something we need so, you know, don't hold your breath.

7. I've done a few performances over the years at Brooklyn Arts Exchange. I've also mopped the studios, run the lights, sold the tickets, and attended the shows. They are a great community-oriented group bringing arts and education and healing to everyone they touch.

8. I hadn't heard of the National Network of Abortion Funds until today. Perfect timing! From their site, "Nearly all abortion funds are grassroots organizations that work directly with women and families who face obstacles to abortion." Especially in light of what happened to Savita Halappanavar in Ireland this month I think we need to be expanding our outreach to help save women's lives.

9. Since the first step in reducing the need for abortions is reproductive health then let's not overlook Planned Parenthood's need for funds, either.

10. After yesterday's sad dog story I can't choose just one animal rescue organization. I talk all the time about Rescue Ink, Seer Farms, BARC, Sean Casey, the NHSPCA, and plenty of others. They all need your help but you know what? So does your local rescue. Please give of your time, goods, and money as much and as often as you can.

Thank you. I know you're all generous people and I appreciate that.

*See also my posts from earlier this month detailing good places to support people recovering from Superstorm Sandy.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Abandoned 2

This neighborhood, the park especially, used to be a prime spot for dumping dogs. Plenty of foot traffic, riddled with pet lovers, decent police presence made it seem like exactly the right place for a dog in need of help. The reality, of course, is that a community of pet lovers is generally a community all full up on pets so there aren't as many resources for saving as one might think. Lately, for whatever reason, it's been a rare enough sight but not completely stopped.

Tonight I stopped at Who's Your Doggy on the way home. I bought food for the dog, some good training treats, and some biscuits. Just past the corner where I turn on my block there were two cops standing next to a dog who was tied to an empty bike rack. I walked over and got a look at her and asked about her. Then I opened up my bag and got out the biscuits and fed her a bunch.

My heart is broken, the kind of broken where I am filled with anger at everyone and everything that brought us to a point where someone, even someone with a decent reason for having to get rid of a dog, would leave a dog like that. She's maybe 40 lbs and seems young, like she'll fill out but not necessarily grow that much. In my very short interaction with her it seems as though she's bright, food motivated, knows that sitting will yield a reward. She's not snappy or grabby and, though I didn't stick my hand down her maw, her mouth is relatively gentle. The police didn't know how long she'd been there but it can't have been too long. She's thin and strong but not emaciated. Hungry but not starving. She clearly knew what it meant when I started opening the bag of biscuits. As another dog approached one of the cops warned me that she was reactive. I stepped a little back. She whuffed softly at the passing dog but when called by the cop and with the promise of the treat I had in my hand that was the extent of it. She was far less interested in the other dog than she was in us.

Rest assured that anger I mentioned extends to me. Intellectually I know that I have an obligation to the animals I already have and that bringing in another dog, especially such an unknown quantity, would disrespect that. I don't have the money or time to do them all justice. But there she sat with her up ears and her trusting eyes and her need for love and I hate myself for not just taking her. I had a dog like her once and that dog wound up being the best dog in the whole world.

I tried to give the cops my bag of biscuits but they would only take a handful. I reached my piano player's hands deep and took out the biggest handful I could possibly manage. They were waiting for someone to bring a crate so they could bring her to the Brooklyn branch of the CACC. I gave her more treats when they confirmed that because only something like 1 in 600 pits get adopted and black dogs don't get adopted because they read as scarier and with the system so overloaded since the big storm she didn't stand a chance and I wanted her to go with a belly full. The cops did, too, I think.

On my way home from walking Ed I stood on the corner, too far away to hear the conversation but something was going on. Two separate dog people were stopped to talk to the dog and to a cop who hadn't been there before. I didn't hear her barking at the other dogs even when the people brought them close to her. The cop seemed to be saying to one guy that he'd stay with her and then something about Who's Your Doggy. I hope it means that someone was going to buy a crate then come back and take her home. I hope someone with better resources, better ideas, a better heart came to her aid. I hope.

But I'm still really, really angry. 

Abandoned 1

Not A Shopper

UntitledIt's sort of hilarious living the biggest shopping weekend of the year while not being much of a shopper. Even when I'm really in the mood to shop I don't have much stamina. I like to go in for something specific and get out. If I'm browsing a flea market or craft fair I generally treat it like a museum. That is, I assume that there's nothing there I can afford, nor do I need it, so I move at an interested but relatively brisk pace with little or no back tracking.

Unfortunately I am not done with my Christmas shopping. I have, in fact, barely begun. Granted I mostly give donations in people's names so it's not like I have to buy eleventy-hundred elaborately wrapped, hand crafted pieces of my heart in the next four weeks or so but...I should at least have mapped out a plan by now.

It's on the list for today, I promise.

These Cyber Monday deals are hard for me to resist, though. I don't have to go to a store, I don't have to interact with people or fend off charity requests, there is no travel time at all. The thing is, I don't need a faux Swarovsky anti-cancer charm bracelet or a Great Dane-sized cat bed (Buy one get one half off!) or a year's supply of only the most essential oils. No one on my list needs these things either. But but but! No store! Free shipping (with purchase over $50)! There are probably also deals on things that I do need and that people I know also require but see above re: distinct lack of plan. I had three things in my Entirely Pets cart this morning before I came to my senses and walked slowly backwards out of the online store pointing my six-shooter steadily at that sarsparilla-pushing webmaster.

How about you? How goes the gifting preparation?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

South Of Here

Thanksgiving WatcherI used to work as a theatre technician. I didn't have any special skills like carpentry or scenic painting or the ability to climb tall ladders in a single bound. I cultivated a talent for following people around handing them what they needed at high speed, on a good day even before they asked for it. Sometimes I'd be called on to figure stuff out like where to store things or how to get more of something but most of the time I just did as I was told. In the business we call that being "neck down."

"So, what's going on here? How are we hanging this light plot?"

"No idea, man, I'm neck down today."

Up to a certain pay scale you can only afford to be neck down. It's harder for some people than doing more brain-oriented jobs. You might be surprised at how many folks just can't shut off their need to figure out a better way and make everyone conform to it. I'm all for a better way but some days and in some situations it's not only uncalled for it's unwelcome. Occasionally it can even make things worse. I have watched my share of people bull forward absolutely unable to understand that they're making life harder for everyone instead of easier.

On Thursday morning I went to work for God's Love We Deliver. Instead of delivering meals like I usually do I was working at a distribution location. I knew from my delivery experience that I'd be part of the team checking volunteers in, assembling meals, and distributing them to people in cars who would deliver them to clients. Let me give away the ending and tell you that we helped to distribute, I believe, over 600 meals by 10:45am.

Now, I was new and I didn't know anyone there so I have no idea if there is an official way to set up one of these pop-up centers or if there's usually one person who organizes each location. From my brief observation it looked as though about 5 people each had a very clear idea of how everything should be set up and run but none of them had consulted with the other 4 nor did they manage to communicate any of the five full plans to the volunteers. I tried to offer my services a couple of times and occasionally was given a job, though never really an entire tutorial of how to do it. Initially I felt weird observing what others were doing and just trying to copy them. Then, as I opened a few hundred shopping bags decorated by local school children for the holiday, the phrase "neck down" jumped into my head. I'm just neck down today. All I have to do is keep busy and quiet and jump if and when I'm told to.

From there on out I had a lovely time. I did some useful things and the world didn't explode because I didn't stick my nose in to organize shit. Neck down can be good, y'all, you should try it sometime.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Like This

Tonight is a night for sleeping on the couch to the dulcet tones of the Fringe Season 1 marathon on cable. You understand, I'm sure.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Leaving It Better

Annual Dog on Clean Couch PhotoI had great plans this autumn. I did some good work cleaning and organizing my house before Queen Bee and MamaKizz came for our trip to Italy. I was so inspired that I was sure I'd come back from Italy and just build on that success. With a little time spent deep cleaning each day I'd be living the Martha Stewart life by Thanksgiving! All I'd have to worry about was cooking, which I know how to do.


This time last week I didn't have a blessed clue how I was going to make my house safe for a party by today. While I wouldn't encourage you to open any of my closets too quickly I did manage the whole safety thing and I cooked, too. (Mom helped. A lot.)

The party was, as usual, fantastic. I'm lucky to know so many folks who are just nice to hang around with. That's the way I like my parties, too, no pressure, just hanging around, shooting the breeze, eating the food, drinking the mimosas. A good day was had, for sure.

Pony Express helped me figure out which containers would fit which left overs and then she packed the fridge. It's a thing of beauty. I'm going to need to take a photo so, when I get out my breakfast pie, I can recreate the feat of engineering. I loaded the dishwasher, mom did a lot of the hand washing. Now we're sitting on the couch resting and there are still some dishes soaking and a few things to be squared away but I'm better off than I was a week ago. Hell, I'm better off than I was three days ago. For that I'm truly grateful.

Now, if I can just build on this success with a little time spent deep cleaning each day by Christm....

Oh, who am I kidding?

*This is the annual dog on clean couch photo, a tradition begun with Emily and continued by Eddie.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Not This Year

Thanksgiving WatcherOur Sueb0b tweeted last night to get people to tell their Turkey Day Disasters. I think I hit that hashtag too hard.

I told her the 140 character version of this story: The most disastrous Thanksgiving I had found me lying on the floor of the kitchen. My fellow cook was showering and something was smoking and I hadn't figured out what yet so if I lay on the floor I was under the smoke line and could breathe. (Thank you elementary school fire safety lectures!) While I lay there I was on the phone. On one line was my ex, J. He had been piloting a balloon in the parade and, due to windy conditions, it had hit a pole, been punctured, and collapsed. He had to stay there alone in frigid Columbus Circle sitting on his sad, dead balloon until the parade was over and a truck could be dispatched to pick him up. I was trying to talk him out of bailing on the Thanksgiving gathering we were having that was timed specifically to accommodate his schedule with the parade. On the other line was my mother. She was filling me in on the fact that she was in the hospital. She'd been there for a couple of days with a condition that was not precisely diagnosed at that time. This was the first I was hearing about it. Had there not been a major holiday it's unclear how long she would have waited to spill the beans.

There's an upside, though, to every one of those stories. Shortly after I got off the phone we discovered that there was a pin-sized hole in the roasting pan causing drippings to splat on the oven flames. We tossed a cookie sheet under it, opened a window, and enjoyed a smoke-free conclusion to our preparations. J came to dinner. While I've been writing this I've been keeping one eye on this year's parade to see if I can see him. I don't know what balloon he's piloting this year but I know he's out there. MamaKizz is en route to Chez Kizz. She's about to get on the train for the middle leg of her journey. Her condition was diagnosed and is controlled and she's just fine. Hopefully fine enough to help me with the vacuuming.

A lot to be thankful for this year. Every year.

What about you?

*Photo from my walk to the volunteer location this morning.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Awkward BoyI am lucky to have a job. I'm lucky to have a job that allows me to own a home (in partnership with the bank), treat my pets like members of the family, take a trip to Italy, and eat Jr. Mints. I know this but, since I don't love it I try to say it aloud a lot so I remember why I still get up and go to the office.

Days like today make me feel more grateful, though. I am so ridiculously lucky to have a job where I can just say, "I'm going to work from home on Wednesday. If Veteran's Day was any indication things are going to be really slow." and not be questioned at all. So today while I was checking in on work, looking at schedules and checking messages and making plans I was also sugaring cranberries, baking more bread than I have bread pans to contain, having lunch with Pony Express, cuddling with my dog, cleaning my dining room table, and buying a basting brush at the hardware store. I watched good TV and I didn't shower and it was glorious.

I'm getting up early tomorrow to do a very little volunteer work tomorrow. I'm just waiting for the pies and potatoes to cool so I can put them away, walk the dog, and sleep tight. It's been a great day and I'm enormously grateful for it. I want every single one of you to have days like this.

Let me leave you with one important lesson: Don't let your oven mitts get wet. Water conducts heat. (Ow.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

10. And then...

Supporting Local BusinessThis being, for many folks, the last day of poking around the internet before we're elbow deep in flour, up to our wheel bases in traffic, or in a triptophan coma I thought I'd give you some other things to read.

1. Perhaps you've read about Savita Halappanavar? She was living in Ireland when she discovered that her pregnancy wasn't viable. Ireland has strict laws against abortion. None. Ever. None of the time. After a few days of continuing and increasing pain, knowing the fetus was dying or dead, she begged doctors (Hippocratic Oath anyone?) for an abortion. In the absence of one, she died. This story, this woman, this pregnancy are why I am adamant about the use of the term anti-choice. Pro-life doesn't mean what people want you to think it means.

2. Chookooloonks is doing some Thanksgiving posting and she wrote about her lovely daughter's deep-seated aversion to change. My heart goes out to Alex. I feel exactly the same.

3. Just a quote about what things are considered "career-ending" and what are not. Dead people? We'll give you a second chance. Adultery? Where'd I put my flaming torch?

Untitled 4. I don't know enough about Gaza to be clear where to stand. Well, I think I know that it's fucking intensely complicated and therefore there are an infinite number of places to stand and you're never going to agree with everyone, or maybe even a majority but that's it and it's not terribly helpful. Here are some facts, though. I think they're a decent place to start our research.

5. Did you know how the Nancy Drew mysteries (and the Hardy Boys and the Bobbsey Twins) were made? James Patterson models some of his production on this now. I actually did know but mercifully discovered it after my Nancy Drew phase had come to a close. I'd still go back and read them, though.

6. Here are some thoughts about how to help Sandy victims over Thanksgiving. There are options whether you're near or far from the destruction. Just an aside here, the coverage is probably dying down if you don't live near the affected areas, that doesn't mean that the problem is solved. A lot of people (a whole fucking lot) still don't have power, heat, transportation, food, and homes to name but a few things. Consider trying to demolish or rinse your possessions in cold water and returning at sundown to lock yourself in your dark, cold home with only a cold sandwich for dinner. Recovery efforts continue. We hope the support will also.

Untitled 7. I've followed Steven Falk for a long time. Partly because of his general awesomeness and partly because I really think I went to college with him but I'm not certain and have not yet found confirmation. Anyway, he had a great success that was canceled before we all got to see the results and he writes about it in a lovely way. I especially like his post script about staffing his writers' room.

8. You know how simple stuff can be the funniest stuff? Well, Schmutzie did something simply hilarious. You'll probably want to click through to the link that explains where it came from. That's funny, too.

9. Do you have any photoshop skills? There's a movement afoot to restore family photos and keepsakes that were ruined in the storm surge. If you have the talents you can help.

10. It'd be nice to end on a high note, right? This comic from The Oatmeal about creating things on the web for a living is pretty awesome even if you don't do that. I especially like the panels about reading comments. In my life recently it also applies to neighbors. 1000 awesome neighbors and I love everything about where I live and how the community functions and I want to tongue kiss the masses. 1000 awesome neighbors and one bastard and I'm inconsolable and hate everything about everyone, even the cat.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Short Week

It's a short week for me. And a long one. On the one hand I'll work two days in the office and one from home. On the other hand I'll also volunteer, cook, attend a dinner, throw a party, and host a houseguest over the course of the days I'm not in the office. It's fun stuff, good stuff, yummy in the tummy stuff and there's a weekend at the end of it, even. This all amounts to a certain lack of oomph in attacking the work days. I arrived today to find out I'd made mistakes and immediately felt awful and even less like being here. I've spiraled down a little into that place where you feel as though nothing you do is going to make much difference (it will) so why bother? I'm doing stuff anyway and I do seem to be making progress but my insides are jelly and my brain requires frequent reeling in like an over-excited Marlin. There will be blood on the decks before this fight is through!

And that right there brings me to my point. A lot of stuff sounds really funny to me today. I'm easily sent into fits of giggles because WHEEEEEEEEE WHO CARES!!!!!! I can't guarantee anything is going to be funny for anyone else but I'll be over here giggling in the corner. Let my amusement amuse you. ("Amuse me, dammit!" - name that TV character.)

Riding in Style

Rather than subject you to all the many "jokes" in my head I leave you with this picture of a cleaner in Rome's Tremeni train station. Riding around on her miniature floor buffer/supply cart I find her both hilarious and ultra cool. I'd love to ride one of those. Wouldn't you?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Who Are You? Who? Who?


Over the course of my lifetime I've gotten a pretty even split between "you look like your mom" and "you look like your dad." I can see the individual attributes that belong to each of them but overall I can't tell. Every so often, though, it's pretty darned clear who I look like from farther back. In this picture from our recent trip to Italy, for instance, I look exactly like my great grandmother. It's the cowlicks. And the 75' tall forehead.

Me & Grandma R circa 1972

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Nothing Like a Dame


In many areas Judi Dench is my inspiration.


Friday, November 16, 2012

And Another Thing

HydrationIn addition to the whole NaBloPoMo thing I did a 30 day photo project that ended earlier this week. Did I even tell you about it? I can hardly remember. Noah Scalin wrote us up and everything, it was very nice.

Do you remember ages ago a book came out called A Year of Mornings? Two friends who live on opposite sides of the country took a picture a day in the mornings. They then made a book juxtaposing all those pictures. I loved that project even though I don't own the book and am not entirely confident I'll be able to find a link to it. (Found it!)

I wanted to learn more about taking and processing photos with my phone. I asked my friend, Chris, if she'd do a 30 day project with me, she could choose the topic. She decided food and off we went.

First I want to clarify that, after my archiving debacle with my 365 hand shots, 30 days I can do! It got dicey once but I held on. I also managed to do exactly what I set out to do, talk to my friend more often and learn about my camera phone. I didn't do anything scientific but I played around with all the different apps I have and it worked out really nicely. I know now that I do enjoy Instagram because it's the easy way out and the quicker gratification but I can also do some super cool stuff with Snapseed so when I feel like playing around that's an option. I still don't entirely understand Hipstamatic but it's easy enough so I can just keep at it.

That's not all I learned, though. Dude, I do not have fun with my food. It's well documented that I resent the time spent making meals but, boy howdy, the way I eat is weird. I eat the same food in the same places at the same times most days of the week. The food I eat is not exceptionally pretty, even though it tastes good. I do not engage all the senses that's for sure. It's hard to explain but fortunately I took 30 pictures so you can see for yourself. I honestly don't know yet if it's something I'm going to try and change about myself.

That was fun, though, and I'm so grateful to Chris for joining me. Not sure what I'll do next but, considering that someone recently gifted me with a whole bunch of acrylic paints, it might be a 1 painting per week project. We shall see...

Thursday, November 15, 2012


I Was ThereIt's the 15th of the month. We're halfway through. Thanksgiving is a week from today. NaBloPoMo is half over and this is the first I'm mentioning it.

I want to say that this is because I decide last minute to participate and my reasons were really just for me but that implies that in other years I've been selflessly cranking out these 30 gem-encrusted posts for your eternal benefit. Yeah, I don't exactly see it going that way. I do think that in some of the past six years I've joined with the idea of boosting conversation levels here and maybe even increasing readership. Not so this time around, though I'm not opposed to those perks if they magically spring up. The more the merrier, right?

On November 1, the first day of the plan, I thought and thought about whether I was going to do it. It seemed as though I didn't have any strong feelings either way. I didn't even have to decide that day really since it was a weekday and I almost always post on those anyway but it felt like I needed to declare myself. Now, I only declared it in the grimy, doubt-infested recesses of my own mind but I did say quite forcefully that I would do it and no one shouted back that I was full of bullshit so here we are. I've been with NaBloPoMo since the beginning and when I reflected for a minute on what it might be like to just not deal with it this year I felt really sad. Given that it was kicking off a couple of days after a major natural disaster in my area reducing the sad seemed like the only viable choice.

I don't have an aim. I'm not working anything out in these 30 days. I'm just shouting into the void every day, reminding the world (wide web) that I'm still upright. That's not necessarily going to win friends and influence people but I'm ok with that. I'm happy just to be here.

NaBloPoMo, year 7, still loving it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Photo Challenge: NORMAL

When I picked this prompt I knew that we were on our way to adjusting our definition of NORMAL but I didn't count on how difficult that transition would be. I mean, I did on a macro level, but not on a micro one. Which is why I wheeled over to the Flickr group Monday morning and realized that the deadline was in 24 hours and no one had entered. Not even me! Thanks to the miracles of modern technology that let us do this stuff in the first place everything was solved in just a couple of hours.

Please enjoy these pictures even more than you might have previously. NORMAL is hard these days. Really hard.

Abby Something
Our Lisa claims that this outfit for the Halloween session of her kickboxing class isn't that far off what she usually wears. I believe her.

Just a kid with a stick playing a game with the water and Our Janet. If I understand correctly Ralphie helped her set up this shot.

What do you mean it's not normal to dress my dog up and put him in a cage? It's normal in my neighborhood!

This one is like the perfect melding of Our Bethany's old normal with her new one. 

It's that time of year again so the prompt is a no brainer. We're going to call it GRATEFUL but you can feel prompted by any of the following THANKS/GRATEFUL/GRATITUDE/LUCKY/BLESSED/BLESSING/[fill in your prompt here].

Please enter by 9am Tuesday November 27th for posting on November 28th. Tag your photos with PHOTO CHALLENGE and NORMAL. Check out the wonderful work in our Flickr Pool for inspiration. Also, let me know if you have questions.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

10 Showy Things

Always A Bridesmaid Post-show1. I have a location and dates for my cabaret show.

2. Don't Tell Mama's Brick Room.

3. December 12, January 9, January 17.

4. 7:30pm

5. I have set the set list.

6. I have written (& re-written) the patter.

7. I am slow slow slow at getting the publicity together.

8. The first show seems both way too close and so far away.

9. It feels good to tell people an actual date (or three!).

10. This is going to be a really fun thing.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Book: Just Kids

UntitledI wasn't going to read Just Kids. It sounded fine, sure. I figured all my music business friends would love it. I enjoyed the fact that last April a fellow World Book Night giver was handing out copies of it in front of one of the places that Smith & Mapplethorpe rented in my neighborhood.

Our Julie kept pushing me, though. I don't know what turned her on about it but she got it and after she'd read it she kept asking when I was ready to borrow her copy. Should she send it now? How about now? OK, well would now be good? Finally, when I was visiting to take some pictures of her fantastic family, she loaded me up with books and DVDs and among them was Just Kids.

I still wasn't going to read it. Not right away, at least. I'd get to it. Whenever. Just to please her. Then a day came when I was going somewhere and I needed a relatively slim book to fit in the bag I was taking and Just Kids was on top of my to read pile and if fit in the bag so there it went. I still wasn't going to love it. Like it, sure, it was bound to be interesting but I wouldn't love it. I'd listened to Horses. It wasn't my cup of tea.

This book broke my heart. It gave me weird flashes of hope and despair with splashes of guilt and delight to liven things up. My true heart is filled with songs of love and soul mates and great art. Together Patti and Robert had all of those things. They didn't come easily, they weren't straightforward, they weren't always confident in them but they were there nonetheless.

For someone who knew more about Smith it probably wouldn't have been a suspenseful book. For me, not knowing her chronology or Mapplethorpe's, I was paying for the whole seat but only using the edge. When would she start singing? What do you mean she didn't idolize the music business? I thought Mapplethorpe was gay? Didn't he always take photos? The forward gives you the ending. We know from the first pages that he dies. The rest of it, though?  I gritted my teeth and waited it out and it was worth every moment.

Cobbled As an artist, particularly as someone who keeps changing her focus, the journey that Smith & Mapplethorpe went on is fascinating. Every time they were sure that some medium was the one they would work in forever (photography, poetry, collage, song) someone would latch onto something else they were doing instead. The only constant was that they each pushed the other to keep creating. If one was slacking for a period of time the other would nudge and nag and facilitate until they did the one thing that makes art, they sat down and did something. Anything.

As people you could deride them long and loud if you chose to. They were, as she says, just kids. They did stupid things, desperate things, human things. With the benefit of hindsight we can yell at them like we do at the girl in the horror movie who just keeps walking toward the killer hiding in the closet but it won't change the outcome a whit. There is some kind of lesson in forgiveness in the pages. Their friendship wasn't perfect. She disappointed him. He betrayed her. She left him. He mooched off her. It was, however clinical this may sound, prioritized. They worked through and with the disappointment and betrayal because being together, in whatever form, was the most important thing. Well, second most, right after creating art.

It's easy to see that now, I know. It's also easy to see this in the way Smith frames the story. She casually mentions that Robert didn't like explicit sex in stories so she doesn't include any. By tossing that reference in a couple of times then penning a Note to the Reader at the end which emphasizes that she has many stories to tell about him but this is the story he asked her to tell, we're clued in that she's buffed the edges, put a soft filter on, and stoically recorded the good times, even when they were inextricable from the bad ones. Those little hints help the reader dig deeper, guess more wildly about their motivations. She mentions that it was hard for them both when he was hustling but she doesn't drag it out with a twenty page explanation of the one time she thought he'd been killed and he raged at her to leave him alone. Her economical poet's voice lays the information out there without adornment. She worried. He felt compelled. The reader simply has to feel her words to sense the rest.

Even knowing that, in the name of Mapplethorpe's somewhat paranoid and controlling manner, the story has been sanitized I am in love with it. I know it's the unbruised apples and that the truth has a light coat of varnish but I'm grateful for that. The more painful details might have obscured the heroic strength of their connection. I thank Our Julie for persisting until I opened these pages. My only regret is that I'll never read it for the first time again.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Moody: Setting the Tone

LimoncelloBefore we got into our weekly routine and invited Bill along and were blessed with the awesome aide, Nigel, we didn't know how things would go. Sometimes aides would disappear. Sometimes they wouldn't be strong enough to move him around in his wheelchair if he felt he was slipping. Sometimes things just weren't going the way that Moody wanted them to go.

Back in the days before the accident he was a...let's call him a difficult task master. He liked things done a particular way and, while he was always willing to delegate, he was also willing to stand over you and micro-manage the way you carried things out. Going from a life like that where you were able to get things done your way all the time, where you were known for doing that, to a life where you can't even clean your own glasses or push them up on your nose must have been...I don't think devastating is too strong a term.

On probably the second movie date we wound up in the lobby after the movie sans aide. Keeping his catheter clear and urine moving through his system was a full time job and something that was always on Michael's mind. In the end the failure of that process was part of what killed him, too. Before and after every movie he and his aide would go to the rest room and empty his bag. I didn't know that on this second meeting, though. Moody got antsy and asked me to come with him and help.

Wildly uncomfortable I submitted to the instruction process and performed the necessary work. We went into the handicapped stall in the men's room. I got out a urine jug from the bag on the back of his chair and some gloves. By lifting up the cuff of his pant leg just a little I could get to the valve on the catheter tubing. You put the tube in the jug, turn the valved and the bag empties into the jug then you can dump the contents in the toilet, rinse the jug and be done. It was the sort of thing that I really didn't want to do but, like dancing for your grandma, you do out of love. Saying no just didn't seem like the way to go.

I'd never spent significant time with someone who had physical disabilities before. I didn't have any training in setting boundaries, making choices, having the conversations you need to have. On the one hand this should have been a conversation with his aide but on the other hand it's one that Moody should have had with his aide. He may have been testing me. Friends suggested that, in his previous life, he was used to people, me in particular, working for him. In his new life most of his aides were women so it might have followed that it was acceptable to ask a woman friend to help out, even in a non-emergency situation.

He never asked me again. I don't know if he talked to someone else about it or if he just took the temperature of the interaction and decided it wasn't ok. I actually considered not going out with him again and may have canceled the next date while I mulled over what to do. Maybe I should have refused and maybe I should have done it then said I wasn't comfortable doing it again. It all worked out, though.

Part of me still feels uncomfortable remembering the bodily fluid transaction. Part of me, though, is the tiniest bit grateful to have learned a little bit about how his new life worked.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Dropping Knowledge

Did you know that when you take an ebook out of the library you can't sneak around the due date? It's not like a physical book where you can just turn it in late and take the fines into consideration. At least it isn't for me, maybe some of you are fancy library-hacking geniuses. When the day comes the library repossesses my book whether I'm done or not. This is terrifying for a Capricorn.

Today I got up, went straight to the local coffee shop and stood outside for two hours. This would have been creepy if Michelle hadn't met me pretty early on and handed me a ton of dog snacks to sell. The shop usually sells the snacks for 50 cents each but today we sold them independently for $1 each to benefit Rescue Ink and their recovery from the super storm. R&S came by a little after that and offered to take my dog away to the park.

I got home, organized the money I'd raised, and took to my bed. I had half a Nora Ephron book to read by tomorrow. It would have gone more quickly if I hadn't integrated naps between chapters. The naps were good, though. The book was good, too. Not as good as I Feel Bad About My Neck but good. And now no one can repossess that experience.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Solidarity. Community. Resilience.

Occupy SandyLike so many other people both near and far to the areas harmed by Hurricane Sandy and her attendant phenomena I have been trying to figure out how to help. I've disseminated information here and elsewhere. I've bought supplies and delivered them to donation centers. I've given money to others who were helping more directly. Not putting my time in, though, has made me feel like I was not enough. There's an Occupy Sandy center a few blocks from my house and I've been meaning to go there and see if I could help but all manner of excuses came to mind. Finally today I had a couple of hours that could be best spent there so I went. I thought you might be interested in what it's like in case you ever have the opportunity to work with, or even pass judgment on, the Occupy movement.

Last year I spent a little time going to Occupy Wall Street and happened upon Occupy Boston while I was traveling. I didn't spend a bunch of time there, I didn't talk to anyone, I just observed and took pictures and tried to spread the word about what I'd seen. I wasn't alone in not completely understanding what the movement was about or hoping to achieve or how it might do that. From what I could tell the way in which they were doing the most good was to bring attention to misappropriation of funds and misguided choices in our greater bureaucracies. I was impressed by how organized the little villages were with town squares, libraries, and kitchens. They were adept at channeling donations and communicating. I assumed that, apart from a few loyal organizers, the movement itself had dissolved.

Within days of the storm there was a website and a few outposts organizing donations and their delivery. When you go in to the facility, in this case a church, there's a volunteer sign in desk. Three people with computers sit there and new volunteers sign in on the website and are then directed to get a nametag (sharpie on masking tape) and wait for an orientation. Those meetings were happening every half hour today. Probably the hardest part of the day was sitting in that chair watching everyone else working and not to be doing anything, just waiting. Oddly enough that was mentioned in the orientation.

The young lady who spoke to the group of 4 I was in had joined the center on Monday morning. By Monday afternoon she was giving orientation sessions. She'd taken Thursday off and said that many things had changed between Wednesday and Friday. First she reminded us of the principals of the movement. Signs around the church said "People-powered Recovery" and "Solidarity. Community. Resilience." They are anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, anti-classism and we should keep those things in mind as we interacted with others. She explained that the entire operation had been downstairs in the church hall but now that was entirely food prep and up here was the intake, sorting, packaging, and disseminating of donations. There was a communication station in the choir loft where people were manning phones, finding out where supplies were needed and working to get them there. While I was there at least two full UPS trucks full of items from the Occupy "wedding" registry were unloaded. If we wanted to go out in the field to deliver things we'd need another short orientation but we were still given a brief sketch of how to talk to people in communities that are recovering. Listening rather than telling is the most important thing. By listening we can find out what things people need, how they have been coping, and offer some measure of comfort. Sometimes the most important thing for people is to be heard. (That'd be a good lesson for life at any time, not just after a disaster.) We were also told that there was volunteer food downstairs and plenty of water everywhere so we should be sure to take care of ourselves, too. In less than 10 minutes we were on our way.

There were a couple of jobs I could have gone to right then and I offered to help sort clothes. There was an area about the size of my living room full to approximately chest high (on me) with boxes and bags full of donated clothes. I reported to a lovely Australian woman named Joy who was doing her best to make sense of it all. We were trying to sort by any kind of category - women's coats, men's sweatshirts and fleeces, kids PJs and jeans - and box up the clothes for easier delivery. We were re-using the boxes that had come off the UPS trucks and just digging through what was there and doing the best we could. It's not a job for anyone who needs to see progress. As fast as we could sort new things were coming in. Though in the 2 hours I worked we'd piled up twice as many boxes as were there when I arrived the area was just as full of unsorted clothing, too.

I want to let the parent who carefully packed a box culled from their daughter's things know that I am sure in my heart that every single thing will be appreciated. I sorted the toys into the toy section and kept the warm clothes and PJs all together. There's a whole system for toiletries, diapers, and wipes so I added yours to that. We didn't have a category for combs and hair accessories so I buried them in with the pajamas and pictured how happy a parent in Far Rockaway will be to be able to carefully comb and style their daughter's hair again.

I came across a whole stash of woolen pants and skirts that I think were a stroke of genius. They will be wonderfully warm now while people wait for the heat to come back and they'll be useful in work situations later if people are interviewing or having to go back to work. I hope they get to someone who can use them in both capacities. I felt the same way about the caches of high end running and hiking gear. Layering has got to be incredibly important now and having warm clothing that will easily fit under the coats and sweatshirts I was packing up will be key.

I want to applaud the woman who clearly cleaned the evening wear out of her closet, complete with hangers. For people who lost everything it will be nice to have some pretty things to wear when they have time to celebrate...many months from now.

When I knew I had to leave I felt guilty. I was leaving the two women I'd worked with better off than before maybe but with no less of a chore ahead of them.  I apologized to Joy and she brushed it off, thanked me for my help, and wished me well. Maybe we'll work together again, maybe not. No one can tell.

I took this picture of the brimming sanctuary before I left. The church will still be holding a service on Sunday morning so all of that stuff will have to go somewhere else before then. I wanted to let you know how easy it is to help the Occupy Sandy effort. If you only have a short time to spare there are jobs for that. If it's important to you to interact with people who have been affected there are jobs for that. If you have things to give this is a movement where you can see exactly what's happening to your donations. Right now we have the Sandy folks in mind because it has just happened and it's part of the news cycle but this recovery is going to be a lot longer than the attention span of your average news outlet. I think we're wildly lucky that the Occupy Movement had what could be called a dry run last year. They tested their lines of communication and their work systems and they showed as many people as would pay attention what they'd achieved. Last week the members of this movement were able to get outposts up and running and reach out to some communties before even government agencies did and now they're showing more and more people how they work and why their way can be vital to our society.

I didn't understand last year. I do now.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Bubbler (aka Water Fountain)

UntitledThis post has nothing to do with bubblers but I feel like I've got plenty to say and not a quarter ounce of gumption to say it. Suddenly yesterday I was just....done. Probably today is a good day to round up some links. We need a little variety now, right?

First and foremost, Our Misti, is co-producing one of Listen To Your Mother's new venues. I couldn't be more excited for you. LTYM is in 24 cities for 2013 so please look for the one near you and consider auditioning.

This woman, Julie Bell, apparently makes felt "quiet books" for her kids. This Harry Potter one is intense. I do not have the patience for all the beautiful detail and then would cry when someone inevitably marred the book in some way. Julie's way is better.

Here's a post from Foster Dogs NYC about relief for a couple of animal shelters that were hit by the hurricane.

Speaking of the hurricane (and we will be for some time to come), Sesame Street is doing a hurricane recovery episode. Big Bird's nest gets damaged in the storm. Just typing that makes me cry. Hope this episode helps some kids who are recovering, too.

Untitled Here are some photos of dogs and cats (and ferrets! don't forget the ferrets!) being rescued from damaged areas. I haven't scrolled through them because, even though it's happy news, it will make me sob.

You know what else makes me cry? (Quit saying, "everything.") Voting. Here's a child on Staten Island who I bet will grow up to be a serial voter.

Sheepshead Bay is a neighborhood in Brooklyn that hasn't gotten as much air time as the others trying to rebuild. This is a nice article about that community and about Allison Robicelli's work for relief efforts.

This short and sweet dream post by Our Sueb0b made me laugh. Truth does that sometimes.

If you would like to eat ice cream as a way to support relief efforts I suggest you eat some Big Gay Ice Cream to help The Ali Forney Center.

Untitled I don't have experience with getting sober but in the middle of a moving post about her first day home from rehab Ellie speaks about her anxiety in a way that was so familiar it made me anxious about how I handle my anxiety! (This is a good thing. I think.)

The World Book Night books are out for 2013! So many good ones I don't know how I'll choose just 3. Will you apply to join me in giving out books in April, please?

Our Lisa turned me on to the fact that you can attend Zombie Preparedness classes at some REI locations. Something to think about...

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Different Choices

While most of us in America were making choices yesterday or waiting with bated breath to see how those choices were going to pan out some people were making different choices; singular, personal ones that changed their immediate landscape completely.

A number of years ago in a state far away from where she is now Our Julie was a single girl with a black lab named Sidney. After careful thought she decided she needed another dog and she chose a retired racing greyhound named Tali. Tali lounged and sunbathed through a few moves, a wedding, and the arrival of a kid with grace and dignity (usually). Yesterday, though, our applied math genius realized that the sums were adding up differently and the balance and tipped for her old boy.

Tali took off for the great rabbit hunt in the sky yesterday afternoon. His family celebrated with tear-soaked frozen yogurt and he is dearly missed.

Godspeed you big rascal, emphasis on the speed.


Treats for everyone, you guys, even our most shameful beloved.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Lucky Charm

Voted10 Reasons I Was Lucky With My Voting Experience Today

1. I live in a country where as an adult woman I am eligible to vote.

2. I could go to my regular polling place. I wasn't moved due to redistricting, weather related madness, or anything else.

3. I was not under any pressure from my employers to put my job above my vote and was able to take all the time I needed to vote.

4. I am registered in New York State and had no trouble getting to another state to vote in the way that some people have been hindered by gas shortages and transportation changes.

5. I didn't have to leave a compromised home and fear what might happen to it while I was voting.

6. My wait was only a little over an hour.

7. It was lit and warm in my polling place.

8. I had enough money to buy myself a hot chocolate when I was done.

9. I felt informed and ready to vote my conscience.

10. Thanks to the public schools of America I can read and write so that my ballot was properly filled in and I could read the computer screen when it said, "Thank you for voting!"

Monday, November 05, 2012

Grinding, Churning, And Other Jobs

Office BrekkyI came to work today.

Usually that's not something that deserves its own sentence, much less a whole paragraph. Today, though I'm going to give it a little air, let everyone take it in, sit with it for a moment. I did not have to scale any mountains, nor slog through snow, nor even stand on a jam packed subway car. I bundled up, packed a water bottle and a book and took off. I decided to start a little late, 30 minutes or so, and see if that would mean that the crowds had thinned some. Turns out they had. I got a seat but I'm pretty sure that's because the available seat looked like someone had spilled coffee on it a couple of weeks ago so people were avoiding it. I don't seem to have suffered any ill effects from sitting in dried coffee for an hour. The trip, door to door, took 15 or 20 minutes longer than usual and the part where we waited in the tunnel, some indeterminate way under the river, while traffic cleared ahead of us was my least favorite part. I got here, though, just fine.

We never doubted you would, you might be saying. On some level neither did I. However, I'm an anxious person. I've got 43 years experience in smoothing over most of it and probably 35 years of actively working to control it, so I hope it's not immediately evident. I don't take any medications for it yet, I try to honor it but not to let it lead me. (For extra credit pick the operative word in that last sentence.)

I'm nonessential personnel in the grand scheme of things. I'm a personal secretary for people who are semi-retired. If there is an emergency in the city there's no reason for me to add to the problems by using up space on mass transit, getting caught somewhere that requires rescue, or generally clogging up the escape routes. When we have any kind of serious weather problem I work from home and my people are extremely understanding about that. All of this is to say that working from home all of last week was a no brainer. With things uncertain and unstable I belonged out of the way. Come today, though, I wondered what the math was on this choice. Would I be adding to a stressed system or hiding out? Turns out that, while it wasn't vital to the turning of the earth, it was going to make everyone's life easier around her if I came in so I did.

Aftermath Honestly, it was a good thing for more than just office logistics. My stomach was churning while I walked to the train and I finally understood that I needed to experience the reality of whatever the new normal was because my imagination was spiraling me up into what they called in the olden days "a state." While I was allowed to work at home and gather information and do some little things for the relief effort I was also allowing my radius to shrink. I could get to the park once a day, to the closest donation center, out for a twenty minute dog walk, but even those forays were getting harder. Inside my apartment it was hard to get off the couch. So, getting up and wandering through my usual routine and getting on the big bad underground machines was important. I had to punch through the skin of my bubble, get my head up, and get on with it.

I felt pretty good at work. I didn't stay all day and I was eager to head home but being there wasn't too bad. The trip home, earlier than usual, was pretty quick. I ran into some neighbors and we walked through the park together. Since it was getting dark I decided to walk the pooch right quick. I only stopped to lay down my things, leash him up, and pick up some poop bags. When I put my hand on the door knob to leave, though, I felt my stomach twist a little and that weird swollen taste come up in the back of my throat. I actually stopped for a second with the dog champing at the bit. Then I turned the handle and walked through the doorway and we hit the road.

It sucked less than it did this morning. Maybe tomorrow will suck a little less. And so on and so on...

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Tell the Zombies to Wait

UntitledOur Lisa and I joke a lot about our relative preparedness for the Zombie Apocalypse. She's turned into a super strong athlete these days. She runs and does burpees and kick boxes once a day and twice on Tuesdays. I always tell her that I'll be the innovator and she'll fight off the zombies until my dastardly plans can be carried out.

We're smart, creative people. We know that if or when the apocalypse come it probably won't be zombies. After 9/11 and Katrina and Sandy we know that it'll be a slower moving desolation with more than one issue to solve. The zombies make the conversation more fun, more manageable, not quite so terrifying every day. To be clear, I'm not trying to make light of what's going on here now. There is nothing light about it except the few times we can laugh at ourselves to keep our spirits up enough to move forward. This is one of those times.

I went to a donation drop off site down the street. They were sending cars to The Rockaways today and I wanted to ask directly what they needed before I picked anything up and to help sort items if that was what they needed more. I figured I'd be told about underwear, diapers, baby wipes, socks, gloves, that sort of thing. I'd run out of money before any of that became too heavy. Turns out, though, they needed food. It also turns out that this is my fucking wheelhouse. Years as an after school dance teacher make me one of the best people to figure out what shelf-stable, portable, healthy, protein-rich snacks are best for a largish population. I got juice boxes, peanut butter, crackers, plastic silverware to spread the PB, granola, ziploc bags to share the granola and the crackers, some chocolate because if you don't need chocolate in this kind of disaster when do you, and at the last minute some Ensure shakes because I realized that some of the older folks might be unable to eat a lot of the food that was being handed out and would need a slow build back up to regular nutrition. Sounds great, right?

Then I had to carry all that five blocks back to the donation site. Turns out that when the zombies arrive I am going to be the first to go. One accidental meeting and any self-respecting zombie is going to easily over power me. Our Lisa is in Colorado. I'm never going to make it to the neutral meeting place. I had to stop four times over five blocks and by tomorrow morning I may not be able to lift my arms to wash my hair. I am a disgrace to the entire anti-zombie movement. Also, honestly, a little frightened.

Share your strength training tips in the comments.

If strength training isn't your forte here are some ways anyone can help the Sandy relief effort:

  • This is a long shot but Staten Island (and probably all affected areas) need manpower. There is so much physical work to be done and the people who live there are depleted and in shock. Many hands make light work. 
  • Here's a roundup from Brokelyn of things you can do from near and far to help.
  • There are tons of displaced pets. If you've ever vaguely considered fostering animals now would be the time to test yourself. Here's a start but you can also check in with Rescue Ink and Seer Farms or any other shelter. Even if you can't foster these organizations need a lot of help to keep up with demand and, in the case of Rescue Ink especially, to rebuild.
  • Restore Red Hook is dedicated to the recovery of that area of Brooklyn, which is home to a slew of small business and artisans.
  • Assemblyman Matthew Titone has set up an Amazon Wish List for his district in Staten Island. People trying to purchase in their own areas and ship to Staten Island have hit some walls with delivery. Amazon has worked this issue out. You'll see a lot of cleaning supplies on there and that's so important as we go forward.
  • The schools who took the brunt of the impact on this storm could take a lot of time to fix. Donors Choose is working with teachers to get them what they need.
  • The New York Aquarium is in big trouble. We don't know when they'll open again.  
  • Food trucks in NYC are feeding displaced people warm meals. They need money to keep doing that. 
  • If you can spread the word about new voting information for people in NY and NJ that would help, too. 

Tomorrow I head back to work. I'll let you know how that goes.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Then I Fell

Prize WinnerI haven't read the whole entire bible word for word. I'm familiar with some of the highlights, though. That "pride goeth before a fall" thing? That's the bible, isn't it? In my experience that one is spot on.

Today we had our 2nd or 3rd Canine Good Citizenship class. I gathered a group together to do this because I'd like my dog to get his certificate and to go on to be a therapy dog but also because I think he needs the skills on the test for us to have a fun life together. It's not a slam dunk that he'll pass, not by any stretch, but there are some skills I feel pretty confident about. I've worked with him on things for other classes that apply here and we're solid on them.

One of those things is coming when called from a stay. I worked our asses off on this when we first started and, with a few notable exceptions, it's solid. Rikke went around the group watching other people work on it and giving them tips. We practiced once or twice on our own. I just wanted us to be warm and on our game.

Now, keep in mind that we were outside, we'd been working for over an hour, and it was cold.

When it was our turn I confidently told Ed to stay, dropped his leash, and walked 10 feet away. I turned, waited, then I leaned down to have my hand in the treat position just as insurance. The moment I said, "OK come" his ass popped off the ground. Then he looked me straight in the eye before turning his back.

Big red X, epic fail, game over man, game over.

But the laugh we all got out of it was worth it. Damn, I needed that.

Friday, November 02, 2012

More Choices

Rocking ItIt's been a tense day all over. The city boldly decided to continue to run the ING NYC Marathon. A few minutes ago they decided to cancel it. (Or perhaps postpone, it's unclear at this time.) Diverting resources for the race that are so desperately needed in devastated regions just wasn't right. While I feel terrible for the folks who are losing money and training time and other things because of this I hope they'll understand. Lizz Winstead is already promising a show for the runners when the race is rescheduled and lots of cheering. The cheering here for the marathon is so intense all along the route. I just know that, no matter when they are able to schedule the race (even if that means this time next year) everyone who runs will be overwhelmed by the support they get.

For now I just hope that, in the wake of losses in time, effort, and money, the NY Road Runners Club can see their way clear to redistribute the resources they have in place to people in need. I don't have confirmation of this but a friend reported today that displaced people on Staten Island were being turned away from using the portable toilets at the starting line for the marathon. That's just inhumane and ridiculous.

Staten Island, by the way, has been hit very hard and, isolated as they are with gas shortages and transportation issues, they haven't been getting enough relief. I've been on the lookout for new ways we can help from near and far since a friend with loved ones on SI pointed out their isolation. Here's what I found:

Staten Island Recovers is a community powered recovery resource. People can log on to request help or to give it.

There's a similar site, Red Hook Recovers, for the section of Brooklyn I mentioned yesterday.

I'm just hearing that there was enough damage in Astoria, Queens to warrant a site as well.

The Lower East Side of Manhattan has a site on as well. They were lucky enough to get power restored today for the most part.

I assume that as power returns to other sections of the city that have been decimated, places like Coney Island, The Rockaways, etc., we'll see more specific sites being created. It seems like a great way to do things, especially if you're wary of the way The Red Cross uses its money. (City Harvest and City Meals on Wheels are still great places to give!)

Thank you to everyone who has been donating and working to make things better here and sending us light, love and hope. Like I said, it's been a tense day and things aren't going to get much better until we get the power and heat back on and people safely back in their homes. I'd write more but I have to run downstairs and get the laundry I'm doing so a friend can have clean clothes to wear as she cleans her Manhattan business again tomorrow.

*Photo is of my friend, Beth, who ran the marathon last year and this year is mobilizing donations for Staten Island hurricane victims. 

Thursday, November 01, 2012

UPDATED: Good, Local, Troubled

I'm getting more inquiries about how people who are not based in New York City can help. Know that The Red Cross is still a good choice. There are people in unpowered and otherwise damaged areas who are still having trouble getting basic food and clean water. Yesterday I posted about Masbia, a soup kitchen working to feed evacuees, and The Mayor's Fund to Advance NYC. I spent some time today thinking about what kinds of businesses are being hurt and how we can help them. Here's a round up of what I've thought of. Please add suggestions in comments and we'll keep promoting this entry so that people can see them.

Small theater, dance, and performance companies (and large ones) are in danger of closing for good. Many of them are in the unpowered and flooded areas. Even those that are not in those places are suffering small or nonexistent audiences due to the problems with transportation (shut down of public transport, gas shortages, gridlock). If you ever went to a show you loved here in New York City and can find the people responsible go ahead and donate to them. I'm sure they need it. Here are some that I've found.
 -Jimmy's 43 is where Our Chrome was going to make her playwriting debut and now they're hurting.
 - The Field is an organization that helps develop dance and choreography. You can donate to them as an umbrella organization or page through their list of members taking donations.
 - The New York Theatre website categorizes their listings by area so you can choose any show, go to the company's website and donate. Areas below 34th Street in Manhattan have no power.
 - Dixon Place is a great experimental performance place in many media.
 - TDF "brings theater to people and people to theater." That's a match made in heaven!
 - TCG is a national organization for theaters. You can support them directly or note some good people to support (like Fractured Atlas) in their Sandy Recovery Resources.
 - The Alliance of Resident Theaters works in a similar way to TCG so you can work your donations accordingly.
 - Dance NYC is talking about the impact of Sandy on dance companies. A donation to them would be helpful for dancers.
 - The Flea is a great downtown theater. They produced The Guys after 9/11. Getting this link reminds me to remind you that since a lot of these places keep their servers on premises it may take a little while to get through to their sites if they have no power or their servers are on generator power. Trouble with the website is a sign that they need more help not less.
 - PS 122 is one of the leading experimental performance spaces in NYC. I've performed there in a festival once and they've supported my friend, Ken Nintzel, a great deal. They also introduced me to LAVA, a dance performance group that makes my heart sing.
 - La Mama might be the leading experimental performance space in NYC. It has been held up to me as iconic since the moment I stepped foot in New York. 
 - HERE arts center is the outgrowth of Tiny Mythic Theater Company. They gave me a huge boost when I was graduating from college and their American Living Room series hosted many of my original pieces. They did not flood but are still without power.
 - BAX was my Brooklyn performing home for a while and I still love them. They did not lose power or flood and have been able to reboot their children's classes to relieve overloaded parents with kids a week off school but they are suffering losses in rental and performance income. They support theater, dance, music, education, and LGBTQ.
 - One of the companies that BAX helped to grow is CORA Dance. Shannon Hummel, CORA's founder, lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn which was flooded terribly. She could use some help.

 - You can always search Etsy by location. If you're doing some holiday shopping and are looking at Etsy, consider narrowing your search by New York, NY and helping someone in the area. Or Search by NJ or CT or anywhere else that was hit by the hurricane.
 - There's a market in a couple of locations in Brooklyn called The Brooklyn Flea. Many of the vendors are from hard hit areas and I'm sure the transportation issues will have an impact on sales in the coming weeks. You can search the vendors and show them some online purchase love.
 - Museums in the city will take it on the chin because of the loss of disposable income in the area, people donating their money to other categories, and a lack of tourism. Any museum can use the help, here are some great ones - The FDNY Museum, Museum of the City of NY, Ellis Island, MoMA, The Met, The Frick Collection, American Museum of Natural History, Transportation Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Tenement Museum, and anywhere else you can think of.
 - BWAC is a collective of artists. You can donate to them directly or to their members. 

Books (read: Alternatives to Amazon):
 - The NY Public Library covers Manhattan, The Bronx, and Queens.
 - Brooklyn Public Library
 - Indie Books NYC blogs about Independent book stores. Poke around to find any of the stores in flooded or unpowered areas. The ones in powered areas probably made out OK with neighbors needing somewhere to go but some (like my local Greenlight Books) also donated books to shelters to relieve boredom and stress for evacuees.
 - Books of Wonder is an iconic independent children's book store that was in financial trouble before the hurricane. They need our help more than ever so you can buy from them, donate to their Indiegogo or both. 

 - City Meals on Wheels and City Harvest are both working overtime to salvage food from businesses and get people fed.
 - The Greenmarkets of New York got screwed with last year's storms when farms were damaged and again with this one where flooded market locations and transportation issues will lose them money.
 - Spoonable is the caramel company I work for. It's a micro company making strides in growth. Some of her distributors were flooded or unpowered, we don't know what impact this will have yet.
 - Li-Lac chocolates is a long time favorite store of mine. They're back up and running at Grand Central but their downtown store is still closed. Around Halloween.
 - NY Mouth is an online only business that creates gift baskets and subscriptions of yummy stuff. Many of the products they promote come from places that have incurred damage. They are working hard to support their suppliers as well as donate to City Meals on Wheels and City Harvest. A purchase from them will help a lot of folks.
 - Many of the area food trucks have kitchens or storage in flooded areas of Brooklyn. I don't know if there's any way to help them but here's a way to keep an eye on them.
 - Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pie is divine. They were making the Red Hook section of Brooklyn delicious a long time before a lot of other folks thought of it. Right now they're urging you to donate to the Red Cross while they assess their damage.
 - The Red Hook Lobster Pound is also taking stock. They combine my loves of New England, lobster, and New York and it'd be great to keep an eye on them, too.
 - I don't think Baked sells their desserts online but you could help by buying one of their books.
 - I don't drink coffee but apparently Stumptown Coffee is awesome and you can buy it online.

 - Even without a natural disaster the homeless pet issue is enormous. Now we've got other factors like leaking shelter roofs, displaced families, and a downturn in the local economy while we recover. Places like BARC, Sean Casey Rescue, The Humane Society, and the SPCA could use a boost.
 - When I first posted I left out Rescue Ink. Glaring error. They're on Long Island and their shelter took serious damage. These guys help out in dangerous animal situations across the country and now they really need help. 

One more:
 - One of the big independent photo and electronic supply stores, Adorama, is located in the unpowered area. They're back up with generator power and offering their store as a charging station for anyone who can get there. A purchase from them is a vote for all that is good in the world.

Thanks for asking, thanks for helping, thanks for caring. Like I said, please add places you think could use a lift. Be sure to include links. If you're waiting to hear from folks in the area remember that power restoration is very slow as there's so much to restore and flood clean up is required first. We haven't yet pumped all the water out of all the places. The cell towers are losing their back up battery towers and the volume of calls is enormous so cell service is getting worse instead of better. We know you're worried about us but communication is harder and we're starting to have to commute which is taking much much longer (for many, for me that will start next week). We'll be in touch as soon as we can.

For everyone who is still recovering but is able to read this, let us know how we can help! We love you and we're worried about you.